Garsington is a small village around 5 miles South East of Oxford, sitting on the side of a hill looking out over the Oxfordshire countryside. Although it is such a short distance from the City centre, it really does feel like a country village. In the late 1800s and into the following century the village was home to Lady Ottoline Morrell, a member of the famous Bloomsbury Set which featured such names as DH Lawrence, Viginia Woolf, Aldous Huxly and many more famous (and infamous) writers, artists and intellectuals. Garsington Manor, the home of Lady Ottoline also became the site of the Garsington Opera. The opera was an annual event staged between 1989 and 2010, by Leonard Ingrams who was by that time owner of the manor house.
Garsington's pitch is part of the village sports and social club which includes is home to the local football and cricket teams. It is situated on the Eastern edge of the village looking out towards Wheatley and the M40. It's position on the side of a hill was probably not the ideal place on an evening like Tuesday with a wicked wind blowing across the pitch.
Garsington FC play in the Oxfordshire Senior League, Step 7 of the pyramid). They gained promotion to the Premier League at the end of the 2017-18 season, finished second from bottom in their first season but, before lockdown, were nicely placed in mid-table last season.
Woodstock, also a Step 7 side, ply their trade in the Hellenic League (Division Two East). After being relegated from Division 1 West at the end of 2017-18, they went on to finish bottom of their division again the following season. However, at close of play last season they were sitting pretty in 4th spot having only lost 3 league games all season.
As with most friendlies I didn't have access to (or even try to get access to) any team sheets. However, I did discover later that Woodstock had arrived with a depleted squad with only five first team players in the match day squad, two of those were goalkeepers. Having never seen Garsington play before, I had no real idea if they were playing from a full squad or not, but their team did seem to have youth on its side.
However, the home side did seem to come to terms with the conditions better than their visitors and steadily began to take control of the game.
Plenty of chances came and went for Garsington, but inside the opening half hour possibly the clearest opportunity fell to Woodstock when their number 11 headed just wide. We did have a small fracas with a couple of players squaring up to each other after Woodstock's captain seemed to have a flick out at a grounded Garsington player following a clash in the centre of the park.
On the plus side for the gathered supporters (of which there was a very healthy number) the dark clouds had not yet spilled any rain. That, unfortunately, did not last and as the referee blew to end the first period the rain began.
HT Garsington 0 Woodstock Town 0. The home side mastered the conditions better and engineered a number of chances. Would a change of ends swing the balance in favour of Woodstock?
Ten minutes in and the home side won a free-kick on their right. The ball was played in towards the near post, some 10 yards out, where Joe Ryan was on hand to stab the ball past the Woodstock keeper (himself a former Garsington player I believe). 1-0 and no more than Garsington deserved on the balance of play.
The goal seemed to shake up Woodstock who, almost immediately, looked a little sharper, a little more accurate with passes, and overall more dangerous. This opened the game up a little and allowed more room for Garsington's nippy left-sided player, Lewis Ryan (younger brother of the goal scorer). Despite his small stature, Ryan was causing all sorts of problems for the Woodstock defence and certainly getting under the skin of their captain. There were one or two incidents that almost led to a repeat of the first-half 'handbags' and, it was only at this point that I realised it was the same two players involved earlier. Despite the outrage of the local supporters standing close to me, it was fair to say that both players were at fault. Ryan definitely led with an arm when going for a challenge, nothing outrageous I should add, not an elbow, but enough to annoy the Woodstock player who, in turn, really should not have retaliated the way he did. Clearly this had been going on for much of the match but in the first half it was on the opposite side to me and I had not got a clear view.
Pretty soon afterwards Garsington made a couple of changes, including taking off Ryan. From a personal ponit of view, this was a shame because I was enjoying his direct style of play and I think his running power may have led to more goals. However, the situation could easily have boiled over at the next 50-50. Wise management from the home side.
Both side slept plugging away. Woodstock certainly showed a lot more fight and composure on the ball in the second half. However, with the light starting to fade rapidly, rain clouds gathering menacingly, and no further score on the board, the referee blew for full-time.
FT Garsington 1 Woodstock Town 0. A good work out for both teams in very testing conditions. Garsington looked to a lot of pace and trickery going forward, enough to cause a few problems in their league this season. I would definitely like to see how Woodstock look with a full first team. Best of luck to both in the coming season and I do hope to see both teams in action again in the near future.
Ground Number: 238